April 10, 2001

Sri Lanka continue their domination of Black Caps

The Sri Lankan Lions gave a tremendous display of their all-round skills to continue dominating the Black Caps, winning their fifth game in six outings this season by an emphatic 106 run margin. Sanath Jayasuriya, the Sri Lankan skipper, gave a tremendous display of his enormous all-round skills to lead his side to its first win in the three-nation ARY Gold Cup tournament with a magnificent yet uncharacteristic hundred, hitting 30 runs in one over, and taking two wickets bowling his left arm slow stuff. And as if that was not enough for a day's work, he also had a big hand in a run out at the fag end.

Despite all those heroics he was not the one to land the coveted Man of the Match Award. It went to the elegant and classy Mahela Jayawardene, who led the Lankan recovery after they had been reduced to one for two in the very first over. That, the Lankans managed to recover and put up a highly competitive 269 for the loss of nine wickets, which was mostly because Jayawardene led the fight back in association with his skipper, and in a highly dashing manner, outscoring the normally hard-hitting Jayasuriya by a surprising one runs to two.

The Kiwis on their turn, sparkled in the beginning, with a brand new pair of openers in Chris Nevin and Matthew Sinclair, putting 82 on the board for the first wicket by the 15th over. The pair had thrived against pacers Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa, but then the spinners came on to tighten up, first to leash the scoring rate and then striking the telling blows. Muttiah Muralitharan accounted for a free-scoring Nevin and then for Andre Adams, promoted in the order to have a go at the celebrated off-spinner.

From none for 82 to two for 85, the Black Caps' charge was effectively stopped. So confident of having turned the tables was Jayasuriya that he took both Muralitharan and Kumara Dharmasena out of the attack, bringing himself and Russell Arnold in. Arnold caught and bowled captain Craig McMillan. That sort of broke their spirits, and the Lankan quartet of spinners maintained their stranglehold and also kept on taking wickets. Such was their domination that the third pacer, Akalanka Ganegama didn't even get to bowl. New Zealand eventually crumbled to 163 - so totally played out of the game despite giving a highly pleasing and athletic display on the field.

Earlier, Jayasuriya won the toss, and as is the wont in these parts, elected to bat first. They were in for a rude shock, losing two wickets to that giant of a fast bowler, Daryl Tuffey, who trapped Marvan Atapattu leg-before with his second delivery and then had Sangakkara caught behind off the fourth to give the much-depleted Kiwis a dream start.

That however was the end of the golden streak for the Black Caps, as both Jayawardene and Jayasuriya dug-in and they had to rather excruciatingly wait till the 37th over for a break. Jayawardene led the way, with strokes to all parts of the ground, in rehabilitating the Lankan innings, and surprisingly Jayasuriya was quite willing to play second fiddle. By the time Jayawardene got out, having played an innings of great character, posting a most magnificent 116 off 120 deliveries with the help of 13 fours, Sri Lanka were firmly on their way. Tuffey again provided the breakthrough in the 37th over. The Lankans had put on 185 for the third wicket and seemed all set for greater things.

But by then Jayasuriya was ready and willing to put the Black Caps attack to the sword. In one of Harris's overs he made up for his slow scoring rate by clubbing 30 runs, with the help of four massive sixes and a four. He got out soon after, and Sri Lanka failed to maintain the tempo but still posted 269 when their quota of 50 overs ran out.

With their spinners holding sway, that proved to be enough to post their first win against the Black Caps at Sharjah (previously their record was a dismal 5 matches, 4 lost with one tie).